Today, U.S. Senator Rob Portman (R-Ohio) sent a letter to President Obama urging the Administration to continue to press the case of Pastor Saeed Abedini. Pastor Saeed, a dual Iranian-American citizen, has been held in a brutal Iranian prison on charges related to his Christian faith for over a year. Pastor Saeed's health continues to deteriorate and he lacks access to needed medical treatment.
"We must do everything we can to stand up for religious freedom around the world," said Portman. "Pastor Saeed's brutal treatment and imprisonment in Iran solely because of his Christian beliefs are outrageous, and I call on the Obama Administration to do everything possible to secure his release."
Today's letter was led by Portman, Senator James Risch (R-ID), Rep. Bill Cassidy (R-LA) and Rep. Robert Pittenger (R-NC).
Pastor Saeed's case was mentioned by President Obama at the National Prayer Breakfast in early February. That followed statements by Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif, which, in a first by an Iranian official, raised clemency as an alternative to Pastor Saeed serving his eight year prison sentence.
In September 2013, Portman sent a letter to Secretary of State John Kerry calling for the Administration to reaffirm America's longstanding commitment to protecting religious freedom around the world by taking a stand against religious persecution in several current cases, including Pastor Saeed's case.
In February 2013, Portman, along with over eighty colleagues from the Senate and House, sent a letter to Secretary Kerry urging him to secure Pastor Saeed's release from Iran.
The letter was also signed by Representatives Broun (R-GA), Daines (R-MT), Duncan Jr. (R-TN), Duncan (R-SC), Fleming (R-LA) , Forbes (R-VA), Garrett (R-NJ), Gohmert (R-TX), Gowdy (R-SC), Griffin (R-VA), Harper (R-MS), Harris (R-MD), Hartzler (R-MO), Holding (R-NC), Hudson (R-NC), Johnson (R-OH), Kelly (R-PA), King (R-NY), King (R-IA), Kingston (R-GA), Labrador (R-ID), Lankford (R-OK), Latta (R-OH), Meadows (R-NC), Messer (R-IN), Mullin (R-OK), Mulvaney (R-SC), Paulsen (R-MN), Pearce (R-NM), Pitts (R-PA), Pompeo (R-KS), Posey (R-FL), Rohrabacher (R-CA), Roskam (R-IL), Ross (R-FL), Sanford (R-SC), Smith (R-NJ), Walorski (R-IN), Weber (R-TX), Webster (R-FL), Westmoreland (R-GA), Wolf (R-VA), and Yoho (R-FL).
Senators Blunt (R-MO), Boozman (R-AR), Burr (R-NC), Crapo (R-ID), Cruz (R-TX), Fischer (R-NE), Graham (R-SC), Grassley (R-IA), Johanns (R-NE), Kaine (D-VA), Kirk (R-IL), Leahy (D-VT), Lee (R-UT), Moran (R-KS), Roberts (R-KS), Rubio (R-FL), Scott (R-SC), and Vitter (R-LA) also signed the letter.
A copy of the letter is included below and can also be found here.
February 25, 2014
The White House
Dear Mr. President:
Thank you for your comments at the National Prayer Breakfast calling for the release of prisoners held around the world because of their religious beliefs such as Pastor Saeed Abedini. Pastor Abedini, a dual Iranian-American citizen, has now been imprisoned in Iran for over a year, simply because of his Christian faith. While reports show he has been moved to a ward for political prisoners, he is still being held in Rajai Shahr Prison, home to Iran's most violent criminals. Further, his health and wellbeing remain a serious concern.
Family members who have visited Pastor Abedini report he continues to experience severe abdominal pain. Although a physician declared the need for Pastor Abedini to undergo surgery months ago, he is still being treated solely with pain medication.
We the undersigned, urge you and your Administration to continue to act on statements by Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif last month. The Minister's statement, a first by an Iranian official, raised clemency as an alternative to Pastor Abedini serving his eight year prison sentence in full.
These statements must be met with caution, but our hope is the Administration will take full advantage of this opportunity to bring Pastor Abedini home to his wife and children. Thank you for your attention to this matter.
Cc: The Honorable John F. Kerry
Secretary of State